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When the holidays roll around, passengers travel the world to celebrate the Christmas holiday with their loved ones. When this festive season comes, many believe that airlines are at their busiest, with massive passenger numbers passing through airports each year.

Nonetheless, despite their busiest season of the year, airlines still find a variety of ways to celebrate the holiday. Airlines, just like their passengers, can become truly engulfed in the Christmas spirit. Let's explore more closely exactly what carriers do to celebrate the end of the year.

A variety of traditions

In 2017, Alaska Airlines made the unusual decision of encouraging passengers to dress badly for their flights. But there was a good reason underlying this. Priority boarding passes were offered for any passengers wearing their ugliest festive sweaters on what Alaska dubbed 'Christmas Jumper Day'. Through this unique festivity, Alaska was able to celebrate the holiday and put a fun spin on the traditional ugly sweater Christmas party.

a group of people wearing matching sweaters and sunglasses
image: Alaska Airlines

Other airlines were less distinctive in their Christmas cheer, but no less generous. Food was the order of the day for several carriers, as it often is at Christmas, with Norwegian offering a Christmas pudding-flavoured cookie with mixed spices to all travelers. Meanwhile, those with more of a taste for savory dishes were offered a festive sandwich from the in-flight menu.

This was nothing compared to Singapore Airlines, though, who offered all passengers a three-course Christmas dinner. Economy fliers were offered a traditional Christmas roast and a Yuletide log cake, whilst those traveling in first class got a three-bird Christmas Roast and an eggnog shot.

Other airlines have had unique traditions in the past as well. Emirates offered a polar bear toy to entertain young travelers, while Virgin provided a mince pie chocolate bar and a surprise present for all passengers flying on Christmas Day.

a tray of food on a plane
Emirates Economy Christmas meal features Turkey Roulade and Christmas cake

British Airways' efforts

UK flag carrier British Airways makes every effort to make the Christmas season as festive as possible for passengers, with an army of staff and cabin crew on hand to ensure that everything goes swimmingly over Yuletide. BA flies no less than 35,000 passengers on Christmas Day itself, and there are 3,500 cabin crew assigned to take care of them.

a group of people on an airplane

BA is another airline that serves a traditional Christmas dinner, and customers of the iconic carrier will tuck into no less than 30,000 mince pies and 600 Christmas puddings. BA also does its best to make in-flight entertainment as seasonal as possible, showing Love Actually, Four Christmases, and Elf on December 25. easyJet was also an innovator at Christmastime, as it launched over 100 flights across Europe that included a surprise visit from Santa Claus.

This year is certainly no exception, and British Airways certainly has many fun plans for the 2023 festive season. Much like other airlines, the carrier has prepared over 380,000 Christmas dinners to be served on flights through January 4th. Furthermore, the airline has gone to great lengths to help decorate its hub airports in the festive spirit and has designed a special commemorative ornament for first-class passengers lucky enough to be traveling on British Airways during the holidays.

Official Santa Claus airline

But that hasn't stopped Finnair from claiming to be the 'official airline of Santa Claus'. The Finnish carrier even went so far as to shoot a video providing a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it's like to work with Santa.

The video documents the history of Finnair’s association with Santa’s Official Gateway, Helsinki Airport. The mini-movie also further examines the efforts of Finnair and Helsinki Airport to distribute presents for over 1.9 billion children across the world, part of the carrier's continued philanthropic efforts.

A Magical Christmas Eve Flight

In this last section, I would like to add a brief personal aside. In some ways, I see this as an extended thank you to those many pilots who flew on Christmas Eve and maintained the festive spirit on a day on which many would rather not be traveling.

For those of an incredibly young age who find themselves traveling on Christmas Eve, the magic of a traditional Christmas morning in many ways can be robbed. As a child, I traveled almost every Christmas Eve from the United States to Argentina, as flights were significantly cheaper that night than any other time during the holiday season.

As a result, I found myself robbed of the traditional childhood Christmas Eve, in which Santa Claus would be at my house in the morning. Despite this, my childhood Christmas Eve memories are extremely positive, due to the decisions of some pilots at American Airlines and Aerolineas Argentinas.

Whenever an aircraft passed within visible range of us, or faint lights could be seen blinking in the distance, captains would often point it out to the passengers, encouraging young travelers to look into the distance and try and spot Santa Claus. While many spent their Christmas Eve at home, those who traveled routinely on that magical night as kids found themselves staying up all night, staring off into the distance for a glimpse of Santa's sleigh.

In conclusion

So there's a lot of fun to be had onboard aircraft over Christmas, even if not everyone would choose to fly on Christmas Day. However, not all Christmas traditions can be embraced aboard aircraft, as Christmas crackers can be classed as explosives, meaning most airlines prohibit them from being brought on board.

This post was brought to you by Simple Flying. Written By Alexander Mitchell.